Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cabin Life: The New Chicken Coop

The GirlsIt’s another beautiful summer night with fall weather.

We had a bit of a milestone out here at the cabin this week.  The chickens are no longer residing in a large box on the porch, but instead are enjoying their new digs and much larger coop.

While it’s not quite done, it is habitable and since there are no building codes or inspections for small wooden boxes, I figured the girls could use the room to stretch their wings.

It must be a big improvement, going from a box that almost always had a cat sleeping on top of it to a detached coop complete with nesting boxes and a perch.  Not that they’re going to be laying eggs anytime soon, but I have some idea of how they feel.  I too live in a small, cramped area with three other living beings.  Hey, at least the chicks never had to step in cat puke at two in the morning.  They just had to deal with seeing Herbie and Ed’s bellies all the time.

I used an old cart to build the coop, and again, the total cost of the project was only a box of screws.  Much like the woodshed, the coop is not square, but it is functional and will keep the birds dry.  I’m really happy with the way it’s coming so far, even though I still have a fair amount of work to do on it.  I need another door, latches and some small windows still, but it is a big step up for the girls.

I was very happy with myself when I was finally able to move the chicks into the coop.  I should have done this a while ago, but they seem happy in their new home now.  As I stood there in the sun, smugly enjoying the non-masterpiece of carpentry I had just completed, I thought how nice it would be when I get the one wheel fixed and can move the coop so it butts up against the chicken run we built a while ago.

The thought occurred to me that the girls will be very happy when they have a nice safe outdoor area right next to their home when I realized that I had never actually measured the coop and the run with the point of seeing whether they would fit together.  My shoulders drooped and I ran inside to grab the tape measure.

Obviously I had measured each structure while I was building them.  But building them so they would fit together just never entered my mind, even though that was the plan all along.  Maybe I shouldn’t have built the run two weeks before I got chickens and then built the coop two months after I got them.  I should have built them together.

I measured from the ground to the roof of the coop on the back side and got forty-two inches.  I literally ran around the cabin to the run and measured from the ground up to the lower edge of the top of the run.  Forty-three inches!  I couldn’t believe my luck and I was ecstatic.  My shoulder’s drooped again as I  had another realization.  The run was tall enough, but was it wide enough?  I measured the width and ran back to the coop.

I knew on my way that it would not fit, because the coop was forty inches wide without the roof, and the run was only forty-one inches wide.  Sure enough, the roof width was about forty-four inches.  With the overhang of the roof, I was not going to be able to fit the coop snuggly inside of the open end of the run.  Thoughts ran though my head as I pondered rigging chicken wire around the sides to keep the girls safe.  There was a quick mental image of a new door built into the run so I could access it.  But I want to be able to move the coop and run.  This was getting complicated quickly.

I stood there, slightly dejected staring at the coop as if an answer would suddenly pop out of thin air.  I ran through multiple scenarios, each more work than the last, and far more complicated than I really want to get with this whole setup.  Suddenly it dawned on me:  I own a hack saw.  I can just trim the back of the roof so that it still fully covers the coop but allows me to slide it into the end of the run.  Problem solved!

I grabbed the hack saw and walked back out to the coop.  Then I remembered that the girls were in the coop, and using a hack saw on the roof probably would not be good for their psyche or their hearing.  I’ve held off on trimming the roof, justifying it by saying that the girls need to stay in there for a while to get used to it.  Plus, I can’t move the coop right now anyway because of the busted wheel.  That’s what I’ve been telling myself anyway.  It’s a lie, and I could do the roof right now.  But I spent a lot of time on this coop, and I kind of need a break.  If anyone asks though, it’s because of the girls’ hearing.  Yeah, their ears, that’s it.

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Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.

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